Here’s Why Guest Articles are Important for Authors

How to Use Guest Articles to Build Your Author Brand

Developing your author brand can feel like a long and confusing process. It’s difficult to know where to begin or what to focus on. After all, there are so many options—countless avenues to explore! It may help to start with something you, as an author, are already familiar with: writing.

What are guest articles, anyway?

You may have experience blogging regularly on your website or sending out email newsletters to your subscribers. While these are important and worthwhile strategies, this isn’t quite what we’re referring to when talking about guest articles. A guest article (or guest post) is usually any piece of writing an author produces that is published on a third-party hosting site—a medium (website, newsletter, magazine, etc.) that does not belong to the author.

Most hosting sites will want first-publication rights for an article, meaning they want content that was written exclusively for them. So, unless they specifically approve a reprint or an excerpt, any article you submit should not have appeared anywhere else before, in print or online.

In addition to first-publication rights, most sites are looking for the following in an article:

  • Originality. What are you saying that hasn’t already been said?
  • Expertise. Why should you be the person who says it?
  • Timeliness. Why does this matter now?

You may feel limited by this at first—especially if you’re used to blogging on your own terms—but there’s actually a lot of flexibility here! The term guest article is really an umbrella category that encompasses a wide array of content, from casual blog posts to formal op-eds.

How do I find the right media outlet to share my article?

Researching the right outlet to approach will take a bit of time. While there’s no one-size-fits-all method for finding a perfect match, you can narrow your focus by considering a few key elements, each of which relates to your author brand:

  • Style. Do you prefer a more casual or formal style? What adjectives would you use to describe your writing?Newspapers usually feature academic, journalistic, opinionated, and of-the-moment pieces. Blogs, digital magazines, and niche newsletters often share more laid-back, relatable, humorous, or specialized articles from guest authors.
  • Audience. Who do you want to reach? Who could benefit from hearing your message?If your article offers writing advice, it would be wise to contact magazines and websites that cater to fellow writers. If your topic is highly specialized, try pitching specific publications that reach readers in your field of expertise.
  • Message. What topics do you feel passionate about? What conversations are you always having with friends, colleagues, and fans?You don’t need me to tell you that your message is a huge part of your brand. You likely have a few main themes that come up in your writing, or several talking points you lean on during interviews. That being said, while it’s important to have cohesive messaging, it’s also OK to branch out into new territory every now and then. Follow your passion and your interests!

How do I pitch a guest article?

First, double check to make sure the media outlets you want to approach publish articles from guest authors. Read a few pieces and take time to explore the outlet. Confirm it’s a good fit for you in terms of style, audience, and message.

Second—and I cannot emphasize this enough—check for submission instructions! Newspapers, magazines, and blogs often have their instructions clearly listed on their website. Submission requirements vary from outlet to outlet. Some may want to see a full article already written, whereas others may prefer to see a list of potential topics you can write on. It’s important that you adhere to these guidelines in order to have the best chance at success.

Third, follow up. Unless their guidelines say otherwise, it should be OK for you to check in if you don’t hear back within a week or two.

How do guest articles benefit me as an author?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Guest articles do require some heavy lifting from you as a writer, but you’ll certainly reap the benefits! These articles are designed to help you:

  • Reflect your expertise. You’re an author, and that means you’re an expert, both in terms of writing craft and the topic you write on. Publishing articles can help you secure your place as an authority in your field.
  • Reach a new audience. Getting your writing published with a new media outlet exposes your work to a new audience, connecting your message directly with readers who may not have heard of you or your book yet!
  • Get your name in front of readers. This is obvious, right? Publishing guest articles is especially helpful for authors who are between book releases and want to keep their name on readers’ radars in the interim.
  • Improve your SEO. If you’re able to link to your website or social media accounts at the end of your article, that can help improve your search engine optimization! Once your article is published, you can also link back to it on your website. This way, you’ll be driving traffic in both directions.
  • Help others. One of the many goals of writing is to help others. So, share your expertise and wisdom—make the world a better place!
  • Become better acquainted with your message, passions, and talking points. While you’re helping others, you’re also helping yourself. As you dive deeper into your favorite topics and begin to crystallize your message, you may find it easier to do various other authorial tasks, such as answering interview questions or writing social media posts.

At the end of the day, guest articles shouldn’t feel like a dark cloud looming over you. They are a fun opportunity to play to your strengths, explore your interests, connect with new readers, and solidify your branding. And, since they don’t necessarily need to be published around your publication date, you can start writing articles and pitching them anytime. Why not now?

Books Forward July 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue celebrates a NYT-bestselling author, features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the July 2021 newsletter here!

Did your book’s publication date shift? Here’s why that’s OK

I, for one, hate change. I’m a planner and a list-maker, and switching gears makes me dizzy. Checklists, deadlines and color-coded markers are the backbone of our society, sure, but when plans change, it’s better to adapt than to fight it out.

Why do publication dates change?

Publication dates can shift for a variety of reasons. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in every case, your team may suggest a date change because they believe your release would be more successful on a different day. Your team knows that publishing a book is more often a marathon than a sprint. While detours may add a mile or two to the journey, they can also better prepare you for crossing the finish line.

Here are a few common reasons for moving a book’s release date:

Production Delays: From editing and designing to printing and shipping ARCs, a lot of work goes into production, and there are often several eyes and hands working on a book all at once. A thorough publishing process opens up the possibility for delays. Editors often factor time into their schedule for a few things to go wrong. Even so, if a snag is hit in one department, it may cause others to fall behind too.

Unforeseen Circumstances: The pandemic is one of the most monumental unforeseen circumstances we’ve encountered in a while. Due to its impact on travel, many books that had planned in-person book tours had to adjust their schedules. To see some of the hundreds of altered publication dates, check out this spreadsheet from Publishers Weekly.

Competition for Media Attention: Say the planned publication date for your book was set for Election Day, or a similarly newsworthy date. As the day approaches, and you realize the impending media frenzy, your team may decide to move your release date out in order to give it a better shot at securing publicity.

Catching the Trend Wave: Book releases can also shift to earlier dates on the calendar! Typically, this is because your team is looking to capitalize on a seasonal or topically relevant trend that would help your book reach a larger audience.

How to make your date change work for you

If you haven’t begun promoting the book yet, it will be relatively easy to make a radical change, should you choose to do so. You can switch from a summer release to a fall one, for example, which was the route many publishers chose in light of the pandemic.

Or, if you’re simply recovering from a small production delay, your date may only shift back one or two weeks. In any case, let your publicist know about your date change ASAP, if they aren’t already in the know. This will be important as they begin to create press materials and organize their outreach to the media.

What if promotion has already begun using the old date?

If you’ve already begun promoting the book, a date change may feel a bit more stressful. Rest assured, though, it’s still manageable!

First, you’ll need to let your publicity team know ASAP about the new date. Your publicist may need to update interested media contacts, and they’ll want to have the correct information for their pitching moving forward.

Plan to spread the word of your date change on social media–here is where a pinned tweet may come in handy! A pinned tweet allows you to showcase one tweet at the top of your profile page, so it won’t get buried at the bottom of your feed over time. Pinning a tweet about your date change will make sure that it stays on your readers’ radars. If you’ve never pinned a tweet before, here are some helpful tips from Business Insider.

Also, be sure to make any necessary changes to your website and Twitter and Facebook banners. You may need to have new graphics made accordingly.

If you are using an email newsletter to keep friends, family, and fans updated, you should send out a special announcement of the date change as well.

What if readers forget about my book or lose interest due to the delay?

This is a valid concern, but it’s equally possible for the delay to translate into added anticipation for the release!

When in doubt, get creative: ask yourself what you can offer to readers that will be sure to keep your book on the forefront of their minds. This will likely look different for every author depending on your audience’s needs, but here are a few options to get you started:

You can plan a special giveaway in the interim, such as offering free signed bookplates to your audience. Or, you can set up a FB Live chat for your would-be pub day, where you play a few games and answer questions from your followers.

In the end, publication days may change, but our love for a good book never will.

 

What is Netgalley and why should I use it?

NetGalley helps publishers and authors promote digital review copies to book advocates and industry professionals. Publishers make digital review copies and audiobooks available for the NetGalley community to discover, request, read, and review.

We’ve put together some tips and tricks for anyone who is interested in reading books on Netgalley, so that you all can utilize this platform to its full potential, and of course to get as many approvals as possible!

  1. Fill out your profile completely
    Netgalley asks specific questions for your profile, and it’s of the utmost importance that you review and answer all of them. This will help publishers to notice you when they are reviewing your requests, and to make sure you are a legitimate reviewer.
  2. Provide links to your preferred platforms
    Some of us thrive on Instagram, others on TikTok. It’s important to share your preferred platforms with Netgalley so that no one has to do any guessing! If you were to look me up right now, you’d see a great following on Instagram, but my TikTok game is WEAK! What if that’s all they thought that I had for social media? I’d be doomed!
  3. Be sure to share your reading preferences!
    There are a lot of times that I receive emails based on my preferences, which is a great way for me to find books I hadn’t yet heard of, and even receive download links! If there’s a genre you know that you love, I highly recommend sharing that with the team at Netgalley – you might just get a sweet surprise!
  4. Check out each publisher’s approval preferences
    Each publisher is different! Some require a specific number of followers on social media, while others may prefer a high review percentage. Either way, it’s good to know so that you can increase your chances of being approved for books from your favorite publishing house.
  5. Keep up that review percentage!
    But really… my current percentage is… not ideal, and it shows in how many books I get approval for. Don’t be like me! Keep that review up to 80%, which is the recommendation of Netgalley. It DEFINITELY makes a difference. I know I’ve missed out on a number of books because of my low rate, and once you get stuck in the hole, it’s hard to dig your way out!
  6. “Read Now” books are especially great for beginners!
    If you are just starting out on Netgalley, the “read now” titles are a great way to get access to books, as well as to boost that review percentage!
  7. Don’t request too many books at once!
    It’s easy to get excited and request every book you see… and trust me, I’ve been there! But, it’s best to try and only request books you know you can prioritize on that never-ending TBR of yours…
  8. Keep your profile updated
    Make sure to update your stats as you have more followers or your reading preferences change! If you mark the date you last updated your numbers, it will let publishers know that you’re staying current.
  9. HAVE FUN!
    Netgalley is such a great opportunity for book lovers and educators alike – enjoy your access! 🙂

Books Forward April 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the April 2021 newsletter here!

What is a street team and how should I use it?

As an author, have you ever thought about just how great it would be if you had a network of friends you knew would be dedicated to helping you promote your book? Sound like a fantasy?

Enter the street team.

A street team is a group of readers that help you promote your book, usually the most loyal fans of your previous books, or books in similar genres.

The relationship built between author and team members is beneficial for both parties. Team members will have access to their favorite author (you!) as well as other exclusive content. And as an author, you’ll have a team dedicated to promoting your upcoming book by posting and talking about it to their network of followers and friends — building up buzz ahead of your book’s launch!

How to recruit team members

The first step after deciding to compose a street team is, of course, recruiting members. If this is your first time getting a team together, try and shoot for between 20-50 members initially. More is great! But keep in mind you’ll have to keep track of if everyone is doing their part and promoting on their end. Exclusivity also helps make everyone on the team feel more special as well. A fun way to cement that exclusivity: Consider coming up with a creative team name!

And remember, team members need to be active online. There will be opportunities to promote your book in person — like talking with a bookseller or book club — but word-of-mouth will be most effective online and on social media.

Where to find members

  • Reach out to friends and family who would be a good fit
  • Check in with any beta readers you may already have
  • Go through previous relationships with book bloggers and people who have previously reviewed your book
  • If you’re promoting the next book in a series or a book similar to a previous work, reach out to people who have positively reviewed your book on Goodreads, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc.
  • Announce in your mailing list, newsletter or on social media that you’re looking for team members

Have people fill out a Google Form so you can go through and pick who would be best for the team, or create a form/page on your website where they can enter info. Ask them things like what social media accounts they have, other books they’ve read in your book’s genre, any specific ideas for how they’d like to see your book promoted, etc. Consider keeping a tab on your website where people can request to join and you can consider building up your team for future books.

How to communicate with your team

So how do you keep track of communication with members once you’ve assembled your team? You’ll need to have an online space where all members can have access. Consider creating a private page on your website that only team members can access with a password. Or an easy option: Create a private Facebook page with just you and members — just make sure everyone in your team has a Facebook account!

Wherever you decide to keep team communication, you should make it a goal to post here regularly as well (we know, basically another social media platform!!). But interaction is important: It helps team members get to know you and vice versa. And it builds a great relationship with your team for future releases.

Notes on communication

  • Try and keep content focused around you and your book. After all, the goal of your street team is to promote your work!
  • Organize things like author interviews/takeovers with other authors to cross-promote and provide new content for your team members.
  • Make sure your team has access to any kind of promotional materials, both digital and physical. This could be bookmarks they can pass out to friends or flyers, stickers, buttons, etc. that they can drop off at local bookstores and libraries.
  • And again, exclusivity is important! When making announcements, make sure team members are one of the first — if not the first — group you reach out to and alert of something new. For instance, if you’re planning a cover reveal, your team should be able to see the cover before the general public.
  • You can also consider hosting a special launch event/party with just team members to celebrate all their hard work leading up to your book’s launch!

How to incentivize team members

It’s important to keep your team active and engaged during the book promotion process. The easiest way to do that is to create a challenge system where members must complete a task to receive a special reward, i.e.: After they post about the book on all their social media accounts, they’ll get a sneak peek of a future book excerpt. For bigger challenges/rewards, you can have drawings for prizes, i.e.: If someone gets a book club to read your book, they can be entered for a video chat session with you.

Potential rewards for your system

  • First access to any advance reader copies
  • Early access to extra written content like short stories, prequels,
  • Signed copies of books
  • If they aren’t already, consider allowing them to be beta readers for future novels
  • Sneak peeks at cover and title reveals, excerpts from future books etc.
  • Early and/or exclusive access to content on your author website or blog
  • Bonus book-related content like printable artworks, maps, bookmarks etc.
  • A video chat session with you (or potentially with an author friend as well if you’re working on cross-promoting!)
  • Promotion of your team members’ blogs and social media accounts on your own channels
  • A shoutout in the acknowledgements section of subsequent books

Potential challenges for members

  • Have them leave reviews of your book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, other bookseller sites, their own personal blogs, etc.
  • Posting Instagram photos (if you don’t already have a hashtag around your book/series, now would be a good time to think of one!)
  • If they have a blog, hosting you for an interview or guest post.
  • Sharing others’ reviews and social media posts about you and your books
  • Sharing your blog posts and reposting posts from your social media accounts
  • Posting shoutouts of you and your book on their own social media channels
  • Talking about and recommending your book(s) to their family members, friends, etc.
  • Requesting your book(s) at their local libraries and suggesting them to any book clubs

There’s no set limit on how often you dish out challenges and rewards, but weekly challenges are a good goal to shoot for. You want challenges to be often enough to keep members active and engaged, but you don’t want to give them too many challenges that they are overwhelmed. Being a team member should be fun — not a chore!

Organize your system in the beginning of your book promotion period so that as the weeks go on, all you have to do is keep track of if team members are completing the challenges. And don’t forget to let everyone know that the rewards are not the main purpose of the team: They’re a way of thanking team members. The goal is to get the word out about you and your book to new readers!

 

Books Forward March 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the March 2021 newsletter here!

Why are romance novels most commonly published in paperback?

Ever wonder why romance novels are always published in paperback? During quarantine, I’ve been reading a LOT of romance, and every time I get a new romance novel from the bookstore or a publisher, I noticed they’re always published as paperback. Typically, when a book is first published, they’re produced as hardcover. Hardcover books are more expensive, and can drive a higher profit for publishers in the first six months to a year of a book’s life. It’s after that point that publishers will continue printing the book, but in paperback.

But why is romance different? Why do these books begin their careers as paperback books as opposed to the more expensive and higher quality hardcover?

The short answer is DEMAND. Historically, romance has been the best-selling genre of books in existence. Of course, this fluctuates and changes, and in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in true crime and thriller genres — but from a standpoint of how the industry started, romance was always the highest in demand. Paperbacks are not only cheaper to produce, but they are also easier. So when romance novels were flying off of the shelves, it made sense to get them into the hands of readers as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.

Mass-market paperback novels are also extremely popular in the romance genre. Mass-market paperback novels are the kind you can find for $5 to $10 at airport, grocery stores, etc. They’re often much smaller and more compact than the average paperback. Perfect for tossing in your purse or on-the-go reading! I’ve bought them before simply because they’re the biggest bang for my buck, though admittedly they hurt my eyes!

Notice where they are sold … they’re sold in places that are most convenient to their target audience; middle-aged women. They’re also sold at an affordable price that can act as an add on to any order. I’ve personally been guilty of adding one to my cart at Target simply because it didn’t make that big of a dent in the grocery list, and I doubted that my husband would even notice.

So there you have it; our consistent and constant demand of these spicy, salacious stories are what make them produced at such an affordable price, even right out of the gate. A huge thanks to the publishers for giving us fresh, affordable titles — we see you, and appreciate you for looking out for us and our grocery shopping!

Why it’s important to take a great author headshot

When releasing a book, there are a lot of moving pieces. Of course writing the book and marketing the book takes precedence, but a lot of smaller steps can be overlooked and may have a huge impact!

First impressions are everything. Especially in a digital world – our eyes naturally gravitate towards book covers, websites, social media platforms and the quality each of those possess. We often refer to the “restaurant” metaphor: If you have two restaurants side by side, one is empty, run down, dark lighting, unclear of what their menu will look like versus a full restaurant, well lit, bustling and beautiful restaurant – which one are you most likely to go into? Consider this when building your profile. Is your website warm and welcoming? Does it look like a real person or just advertisements? This way of thinking narrows right down to your author headshot. Did you scroll through the dark depths of your photo roll and pick a picture from 10 years ago? Is it blurry? Is your pet in it? These are all things you want to avoid when settling on an author headshot.

Photography can be expensive, but if you can get professional photos done, we highly recommend including this in your marketing budget. You can hire locally for headshots and press shots, and these photos will work for radio, newspaper, your press release and beyond. Having these photos can go a long way and will keep your brand looking professional.

If you are on a tight budget, there are options. You can hire a college student, somebody who is looking for experience in photography – perhaps they need for their final project and will take your headshots at no or low cost. Another option is asking a family member or friend to help you take photos. Most phones these days come with high quality cameras.

All you need is good lighting (natural lightning works best, or invest in a ring light – these are also great for Zoom interviews!) a plain background and the editing tool in your phone. Refrain from using filtered apps for your headshot, as these can really tamper with the quality of the image. Focus on slightly and subtly brightening and adding a little bit of contrast. And take multiple shots – you’ll want options to choose from! Don’t be shy to get the best author headshots you can to represent your book.

All in all, remember to be current and stay relevant. You are an author, and that needs to be clear and concise when people see your headshot on the back of your book and the front of your social media platforms. This is your business. It may be a small part of the bigger picture, but it’s an important one that will help sell your book.

What are bookplates, and do readers and authors use them?

What are bookplates and how can I use them?

 

Have you ever loaned someone a well-loved copy of your favorite book, only to never lay eyes on that book ever again? Have you decided that generosity is futile because no one understands the deep personal attachment you have with your books? Yeah, me too.

I still cringe when I think about loaning a friend my copy of “The Fault in Our Stars” in middle school. As I handed over the book, she asked me, Can I use highlighter in this? The audacity.

Well, bookplates were invented to solve this problem by documenting the personal relationship you have with your book and ensuring that everyone knows this book belongs to you. Are bookplates passive aggressive? Maybe, depending on who you ask.

But they can also be a fun way for an author to personalize their book for readers, even during a pandemic, and can create a unique experience that will leave them eagerly awaiting your next release.

A Brief History

A bookplate, sometimes called an ex libris plate, is a label that is affixed inside a book. Traditionally, bookplates were used to indicate ownership, and historians have found evidence of bookplates being used in Ancient Egypt and Europe during the Middle Ages. Prior to the advent of the printing press in the 15th-century, books were rare and extremely valuable, so it was important to mark ownership in case a book was lost or stolen–but whether or not a bookplate actually resulted in more books being returned to their owner is unknown.

It’s safe to say that early iterations of the bookplate were more practical than ornamental. Later on, however, these inscriptions developed into elaborate artistic expressions, as wealthy patrons commissioned designs from famous contemporary artists. Take a look at this bookplate designed by Albrecht Dürer (circa the late 15th or early 16th century) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/387572

Since bookplates were primarily used to reflect ownership, they often included a family crest or coat of arms. Artists sometimes inscribed these by hand or made a woodcut or engraving to transfer their designs, as Dürer is known for.

Nowadays, bookplates are usually affixed to the inside cover or front matter using a sticker or a stamp. Bookplates have also taken on a variety of uses. They are still widely used to indicate ownership, but they can also be used to display an author’s signature or otherwise personalize a book.

An Author’s Signature

Adding a signature to a book helps to bridge the gap between the author and the reader. The personal connections made during a book event or book signing can turn even a casual reader into a lifelong fan of an author’s work.

Although the current pandemic has halted many in-person gatherings, book signings have thankfully continued on through the use of bookplates!

Bookplates are a safe way for authors to send their signature to anyone, from booksellers to fans, while abiding by social distancing measures. If you can’t meet someone in person to sign their book, sending a signed bookplate their way is a great alternative.

An author might also choose to sign bookplates for efficiency if they are signing a number of books all at once for a bookstore, book club, or other large event.

Here are some examples of authors using bookplates in recent months (be sure to follow each of these authors on Twitter for more updates!)

Sara Sligar: https://twitter.com/saraxsligar/status/1264245770582028289

Maggie Stiefvater: https://twitter.com/mstiefvater/status/1361431121486114819

Adam Silvera: https://twitter.com/AdamSilvera/status/1361392998496440322

Publicity Plan

At this point, you may be wondering, how can bookplates become a part of my publicity plan? When do I use them and who should I send them to?

Bookplates are especially useful when paired with virtual events. You can offer to send signed bookplates to a bookstore in advance of an event, ensuring that each attendee has access to a signed copy.

Not only does this benefit attendees who now have access to personalized books, but this also helps build a good relationship with your local bookseller. Bookplates can be used as an incentive to encourage attendees to buy their books from their local store instead of from Amazon, in the spirit of a shop-local campaign!

You can also offer to send signed bookplates as a free gift for fans who pre-order a copy of the book. Ask fans to DM or email their receipt to you, and then mail them a bookplate with a personal note thanking them for their support.

Additionally, bookplates can be used as an exclusive perk for a giveaway. A bookplate giveaway can be held in conjunction with a virtual event or on social media, just for fun!

Get Creative!

Although traditionally bookplates have been used in a limited number of ways, the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of unexpected ways to personalize books for readers, and to make your book stand out from the crowd.

Some authors, like David Sedaris, add drawings or sketches to accompany their signature. These drawings often relate to a specific meaning within the book, operating like an inside joke or a teaser for what’s to come.

Another author recently took this idea and turned it up a few notches. Will Maclean, author of “The Apparition Phase” created a unique and memorable publicity campaign by personalizing copies of his book in a way no one has seen before.

Maclean signed 1000 copies of his book, but made things a bit more interesting by “hiding” a 1000-word short story within these copies. Each book contained one word from the story, as well as a number (ranging from 1 to 1000) indicating its position within the story. When all 1000 words are arranged in the correct order, the short story will be revealed.

This tactic turned readers into eager detectives, hoping to string all the words together. Fans flocked to Twitter, sharing each word that was included within their signed copy and keeping track of progress. 

https://twitter.com/lovedreadinthis/status/1331611138711285760

At the end of the day, bookplates are all about showing readers and booksellers that you care. They help to create a heartfelt memory for the reader which will have them reluctant to loan their copy of your book out to anyone – even their closest friends!